Another blockbuster Friday night clash, a new coach in the hot seat, and a wooden-spoon defining contest. Here's What To Watch For in Round 18.
Can Adelaide's big men take advantage of depleted Dons?
No first-choice ruck, no Michael Hurley, no hope for the Dons?
That's of course unfair on the Bombers, who have roared back into September calculations by winning five of their past six games, but they'll be up against it in Friday night's finals-shaping clash against the Crows at Adelaide Oval.
The Bombers somehow defied their dwindling big man stocks in last weekend's thrilling win over North Melbourne -- take a bow, Zac Clarke -- but the Crows boast some serious weaponry that will test the visitors in a classic 'eight point game' for two teams just inside the top eight.
Reilly O'Brien is one of the most improved talls in the league this year, taking over from Sam Jacobs as the Crows' No. 1 ruck. He has notched the fifth most hitouts in 2019 and his marking and follow-up work around the ground have been super impressive.
Up forward, Josh Jenkins and Taylor Walker were both excellent against Gold Coast -- yes, it was only the Suns, but still -- meaning Adelaide also have the ability to stretch the Bombers' defence if their mids can take care of their side of the equation.
Hurley, who might be out for the year with a shoulder injury, is Essendon's rock down back and will be sorely missed, and his absence will also mean John Worsfold won't have the flexibility to throw fellow key defender Cale Hooker forward if needed.
It means the Crows hold all the aces on Friday night and they should be good enough to take advantage.
🎙️ Is Dusty already Richmond's GOAT? 🤔— footytips (@footytips) September 30, 2019
🎙️ People are overrating Marlion's debut 🤷
🎙️ Dissecting the Gold Coast 'assistance package' 🧐
Ep. 29 of the @ESPNAusNZ #AFL podcast.
🎧 LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE ➡️ https://t.co/Crxx7XOLPm
Will Port continue to frustrate fans, media and Ken Hinkley?
Loss. Win. Loss. Win. Loss. Win. Loss. Win. Loss.
Port Adelaide's past nine weeks have been as inconsistent as you can get. Just when we get excited and think they are a genuine finals contender, they go out and produce an insipid performance.
In this nine week span, the Power have averaged just 57 points per game when losing as opposed to 99 in the wins. That 42-point differential is utterly staggering and it's little wonder Ken Hinkley's side has been dubbed the most frustrating team in football.
Given they were humiliated by Brisbane last week, we should probably expect a bounce back when they travel to the Melbourne Cricket Ground and face the in-form Tigers on Saturday afternoon.
Port Adelaide lost to Richmond by seven points in a thriller earlier this year at Adelaide Oval, but did beat them by 14 points in their previous match at the MCG. Just for a little more inconsistency, the time before that they lost and the time before that they won!
If Port are to get back on the winners' list and keep this streak alive, there's a few players who will need to fire. Charlie Dixon managed just one goal in the loss to the Lions, while Steven Motlop was barely seen. Scott Lycett also had a poor outing and will be looking to respond.
Can the caretakers go three from three?
Even though it's his first match in charge of the Saints, there's a bit of pressure on interim coach Brett Ratten.
So far in 2019, the league's two other temp coaches have both won their debut in the hot seat, continuing a strong tradition of the 'bounce back' factor under a caretaker coach.
In fact, since 2000, caretakers have chalked up 11 wins and 14 losses in their first game in charge. The figures aren't so good for their second starts - caretakers are 3 wins and 20 losses. Notably, Rhyce Shaw bucked the trend and went 2-0 in his first two games, while this year's other temp, David Teague won his first but lost his second match at the helm of the Blues.
The Saints have what they should classify as a winnable game against the young Dogs at Marvel Stadium on Sunday, and Ratten's coaching experience -- having led Carlton for six years between 2007 and 2012 -- means St Kilda will be in good hands leading into the match.
With the Blues, Ratten had a 50.4percent win record - one which compares favourably to Alan Richardson's 37.1 percent, which was the sixth worst of any coach to have coached more than 100 games.
No pressure, Ratts, but the caretakers could go three from three.